A couple of blogs back I challenged musicians to be prepared so opportunities can be seized. Playing for funerals is easy. They generally start on time, and as long as you can play soothing music – you’re home free. Weddings are entirely different. Bridesmaids have other things to do half way through practice, ministers forget rehearsals and you have to drag them across the busy street to the church while they’re still wearing slippers and then there’s power outages that shut down the organ in the middle of the mother-of-the-bride’s appearance.
You better be prepared.
In fact, you’re the one in need of soothing music. I have played for brides who insist on both organ and piano music, though the instruments are on opposite sides of the platform. So I have vaulted over bridal trains as silently as possible while the preacher offers up solemn prayers. Some brides believe everyone owes them Oscar-level performances. My proof? One bride had five (5) solos, two (2) duets and two (2) instrumental pieces I was to play. This wasn’t a wedding-it was a full length Rogers and Hammerstein production. The rehearsals alone with all the vocalists tired me out weeks before the wedding. Probably one of the most frustrating times was when I played for a very accommodating bride only to have the rod controlling the damper pedal slip from the piano, clang onto the marble floor and roll loudly to stop a couple of pews back. Again, the mother of the bride was being seated. Umm. I had to play the remaining service without any damper pedal. Immediately I went into the organ method of fingering but wished I could have pulled off the music as I knew it should have sounded.
POISE is EVERTHING!
So, it’s a good idea to be prepared to play an additional 20 minutes of prelude before the wedding party marches down the aisle. Be alert – don’t think the accomplished vocalist won’t accidentally skip half a verse and don’t get startled if the candle starts to burn the tablecloth during your solo.
What experiences have you had in your weddings-as-a-musician?
When it comes to the church service part of the wedding, I do not like to play show tunes and popular songs unless they sound very spiritually appropriate. If the bride insists on “We’ve only Just Begun” she can find someone else. You can decide what songs you will play for a wedding. That is YOUR choice. If the wedding is more informal and in a garden setting I might be a little more lax (as long as I am still comfortable with the words of a song and it’s rendering is compatible with a setting of vows exchanged before God. Again, as a musician, you must beforehand decide what you want to be associated with in your performances. As a church musician, I was very strict with my own choices but even I found no problem playing for a garden wedding where the ring bearers were two, well behaved miniature schnauzers.
Also, be prepared to improvise when emergencies arise. Take songs (vocal songs are more apt to fit this category) and practice playing them several different ways. Pull out the classics like Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” and “Canon in D” by Pachabel and other traditional pieces.
But remember, it is a happy occasion so have fun with it. Play with a glad heart and smile.